Text and photos by Stacie Joy
Also an East Village resident, Archie greets me at the shop before office hours, shows me the prints, cards and pressed artwork, and patiently answers my questions about the machine and the letterpress process, its conception and design methods, and what it is. been like opening a retail space during the pandemic.
Can you provide a brief introduction to typography – including the part about the risk of crushing every bone in your hand?
Between 1492 and 1980, anything printed for mass consumption was produced using letterpress technology. Every size of every font was molded into small metallic letters that were chained together and printed in advertisements, newspapers, books…everything. For the dissemination of information, this was the most important technological development until the Internet. EV Grieve would be hand-composed if it existed in the 1970s. [Ed note: YES!]
How did your interest in typography come about?
I took a typography class in college and was hooked. I don’t know exactly why. It is a very “liberal art” profession. It’s made up of words, so you become a poet. The type must be laid out for you to become a designer. The colors must be mixed, so you become an artist. The press will break, so you become a mechanic.
There are so many different parts of the brain at work when running a project. I’m impatient, so it forces me to slow down, think carefully, and stay cool when things aren’t going well. When I started selling my work, it became my full-time job, and I haven’t looked back.
Tell us a bit about the Vandercook SP-15 you use in the shop.
This model is the lightest flatbed press available at approximately 700 pounds. It was designed to make a perfect copy of something like a sheet of newspaper using hand type. This perfect copy would be made into a film for offset printing, which spins very fast (this is the machine you see in old movies when editing newspapers).
What is the concept behind your city/state maps?
New research indicates that we are underutilizing the navigational parts of our brains because of GPS. Turns out that’s a problem. It is an extremely powerful part of our brain. When was the last time you felt so lost that you thought, “oh oh? Google Maps constantly comes to the rescue.
What vision of design guides your work?
I have no formal training in graphic design, but typography is basically the basis of graphic design. All the physical rules of typography have created the visual language we take for granted on our screens. There’s a reason we keep the lines evenly spaced. The personality of each font is much stronger when cast in metal.
Everything I know about design I learned through typesetting and printing. I do most of my design on the computer now because it’s so much more efficient, but the vision comes from typography. I developed many other ideas, all based on organizing information in a simple and beautiful way.
Why decide to open a storefront for your products instead of relying solely on an online operation?
I opened the store for several reasons: I wanted to start creating new works and get people’s reactions right away. Now I can get something from idea to shelf in a week instead of months.
What has been the reaction to the store so far?
Everyone who enters is united and delighted. Most people who come immediately walk over to the print stands, flip through each print and then stare at the walls for a while. It’s a feast and everything in the shop is special for one reason or another. I love it when people ask, “Did you do everything here? If I did, I would be a wizard.
Why choose the East Village for your store?
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for five years and love our strong ecosystem of unique small businesses. For some reason, I felt like the East Village would “get it” and appreciate it. I was right! I can’t imagine this shop anywhere else.
Any future projects you want to share?
You can keep an eye on the presses here.
Saturday-Sunday noon-6 p.m.